About four months ago we booked a two week's back-to-back cruise on the MSC Poesia.This was my 26th cruise and my wife's 14th, but our first ever on MSC. We have sailed mostly on Carnival, Princess and Holland America, but two years ago in January we had a wonderful trip on another Italian ship - the Costa Fortuna. The Fortuna is a beautiful ship with an Italian flavor and with MSC Poesia coming to the Caribbean for the first time we took advantage of excellent pricing and decided to give it a go. This time we traveled with another couple - our immediate neighbors and good friends, who took us on the 3 hour drive to the port. In the weeks leading up to the cruise I had read many reviews about the Poesia and we were a bit bothered by the negativity of many of them. We even heard from a nearby neighbor who described it as the worst cruise ship they had ever been on! But there were also some very positive reviews and we approached the trip with an open mind, knowing that even for the best rated resorts, hotels, cruise lines etc., there are always mixed reviews depending on the circumstances and requirements of the customer(s).
Our back-to back cruise started on January 9th and ended on January 23rd and our itinerary included 9 ports of call, although we had two visits to Nassau on the Fridays before returning to Fort Lauderdale. There were 300 people doing the two week's trip and the turn-around at the end of the first week was handled quite efficiently,although it was delayed a bit by slow disembarkation of the passengers leaving the ship after one week. Check-in procedures were very quick and efficiently handled, and it was nice to have one of the stewards greet you on boarding and lead you to the cabin right away without having to kill time in the cafeteria with all one's carry-on luggage. We were immediately impressed with the beauty of the ship and the cleanliness thereof. The public areas were very impressive in design, color and decor and seating was comfortable in most lounges and eating areas. The main theater was especially beautiful, and few could fault the imagination that went into the spacious Zebra Lounge. We chose an inside cabin for this trip. We like balconies but don't really spend much time on them so cabin choice is not a big deal for us. The cabin gave adequate storage and closet space for two weeks clothes and toiletries, etc., but it was a bit smaller than other inside cabins we have had. The bathroom was good with plenty storage space and the shower was adequate, although anyone with excessive height or weight could find it very cramped. We did not like the liquid soap dispensers (with very diluted soap!) and bought bars of soap in Tortola. Very few people are lucky in cruise ship casinos, the odds usually being worse than in large casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Biloxi et al. I made my usual daily contributions to the slot machines and I don't play table games so I can't comment on them. It is a beautifully appointed casino, but unfortunately they have very antiquated slot machines and make the mistake of having piles of old fashioned quarter and dollar machines and very few of the modern nickel and penny machines. These are much more fun to play and one can actually spend a lot more on them because of the line bet/bets per line make-up of the machines.
I will say categorically that the Theater Shows were the very best I have seen on any cruise ship! The dancers were superb and there were colorful shows every night, with additional entertainers from several countries ( acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, aerial artists and superb live singers). The Italian tenor and sopranos were superb. The bands and other entertainment around the ship was also of a very high standard. The theme during the first week was Polka with two top bands providing the music, and during the second week five old baseball greats came out of retirement to join in the Baseball theme cruise. Several specials events were held,including baseball trivia, pitching contests, autograph sessions etc., which were very popular with the many baseball enthusiasts on board. We had many non-English speaking passengers on board (including many French Canadians the first week)and conversation in English was sometimes difficult in open seating in the dining rooms at breakfast and lunch time.
We mostly avoided the upstairs buffet/cafeteria area, which was usually packed and very noisy, with some really pushy people at times - behaving as though they hadn't eaten for days! We had a table of four with our cruise mates for dinner and our table steward was superb along with his bus boy. They knew enough English to keep us happy! A lot of people were critical of the food - especially those who felt there was too much Italian food. We had no complaint with the quality or quantity of the food, although the menu choice was very limited compared with Princess or Holland America. Service was basically excellent and we found the Indonesian dining room staff to be very friendly as well as our Indonesian cabin steward, who did a great job for us - with our room ready for us by the time we returned from breakfast. We did not particularly like the dining room set-up. One level dining rooms are so noisy after the two level dining room experience on other ships. It was especially noisy for us because our table was right next to a Spanish couple who exerted no parental control over their two young children who were very noisy and spent half the dinner time screaming and screeching to the apparent delight of their parents! - and you guessed it! - they were also sailing for two weeks!
The one thing that bothered us most on the cruise, however, was one thing which MSC Poesia needs to correct for those passengers who want to keep up their daily walking regime. My wife walks six miles a day and I walk about 2 miles most evenings of the week, so we checked out the Jogging area on the Sports deck and found it not very user-friendly. It was often blocked by chairs and the few joggers made it very difficult for the walkers. So we went down to Deck 7 and found what is a super promenade deck with a non-slip surface that goes most of the way round the ship. It is wide with no chairs on it, so there is plenty of room for passing other walkers. One big problem though! Every morning, when we wanted to start walking around 6 am before breakfast two deckhands would be on vacuuming up water or hosing off salt spray, and to carry out this task - a few feet at a time - they would rope off many of the access doors and cut off huge portions of the deck. One of the men was like a Russian Bear - non-verbal, but with aggressive gestures to scare off anyone who dared share his territory. Incredible! We eventually ignored him and ducked through his tape and kept walking, as did other passengers once they l;earned the drill. I mentioned him in our Cruise-end Review and hope and trust that management picks up on his behaviour and disciplines him accordingly. So, as I said at the beginning - there were positives and negatives in our Poesia experience, but overall I think we were more than happy with our cruise. Also, as they get more used to the Caribbean and dealing with the expectations of the typical American passenger they should earn a pretty good reputation - especially if they remain as competitive in pricing as they have been thus far.